The Seven Best Short Films for ELT Students
I’ve been writing lesson plans designed around short films for my website Film English for six years. Teachers often ask me how I find the short films I use in my lesson plans. The answer is quite simple: I’ve watched literally thousands of short films and developed an instinct for the type of engaging and simple short films which will work in the ELT classroom. In this article I’d like to share what for me are the seven best short films for the language classroom.
The Mirror is a short film by Ramon and Pedro which tells the story of a boy’s journey from childhood to old age. It works very well for getting students speaking, writing and using vocabulary related to age, face, body, mood and actions. You can watch the film below and find a full lesson plan here.
The notebook is a moving short film by Greg Gray and is wonderful for introducing the theme of empathy. It can be used to get students to learn and practise vocabulary related to household chores. You can watch the film below and find a full lesson plan here.
Dial Direct “The Notebook” directed by Greg Gray from Velocity on Vimeo.
The Present is a gripping short film with a wonderful twist by Jacob Frey which deals with the themes of empathy, teenagers and disablity. You can watch the film below and find a full lesson plan here.
The Present from Jacob Frey on Vimeo.
Soar is a delightful short film by Alyce Tzue which can be used to get students to predict and write a narrative. You can watch the film below and find a full lesson plan here.
SOAR: An Animated Short from Alyce Tzue on Vimeo.
I Forgot My Phone
I Forgot My Phone is a thought-provoking short film by Miles Crawford which is a great prompt for discussion and refexion on addiction to mobile phones. You can watch the film below and find a full lesson plan here.
I Forgot My Phone from Miles Crawford on Vimeo.
iDiots is a short film by special effects company BLR_VFXand deals with the themes of technology, mass consumption and instant gratification. It’s a great prompt to get students thinking and speaking about mobile phones and technology. You can watch the film below and find a full lesson plan here.
IDIOTS from BLR_VFX on Vimeo.
Fear of Flying
Fear of Flying is a beautiful short film by Conor Finnegan which is an effective way to introduce and discuss the theme of fears and how to overcome them. You can watch the film below and find a full lesson plan here.
FEAR OF FLYING from conorfinnegan on Vimeo.
I hope you like the short films and find the lesson plans useful. Are there any short films you’ve used in the classroom that you’d like to share?
Photo credit Grant McCurdy
Directed by Kurt Kuenne, United States, 2006, 16 minutes
Validation is a short film that follows Hugh Newman, a parking assistant in charge of validating parking tickets, and his quest to get Victoria, a DMV photographer, to smile.The films starts out with a depressed driver walking to the validation stand with his ticket, as he arrived Hugh Newman begins to complement the driver and ends up making him smile.Soon everyone from George Bush to Saddam Hussein is smiling because of Hugh Newman’s ability to make people smile.However, when Hugh goes to the DMV to get his drivers license renewed, he runs into Victoria who simply won’t smile.This sets Hugh off on a quest to get Victoria to smile and this short follows the adventure that eventually changes Hugh and Victoria.
I stumbled across this film while searching for short films and fell in love with it very quickly due to its ability to blend the unbelievable with the believable.For instance this ability shows up in the beginning of the film as Hugh begins to talk to his first client about how amazing he is.I thought at first that Hugh was making fun of the man because of the way he expressed his complements however he was being completely serious.Then there are other details that stand out as unbelievable but yet the director is able to make them believable.One example of this is where the validation stand is located, it appears to be in a living room with a fireplace on the right.If you also looked at the DMV photo room, there are chandeliers and it appears to be filmed in a large ballroom.However, throughout the entire short, you never second-guess the fact that some of these things don’t add up or that some of them are simply ridiculous.While some people will claim that the film works hard to suspend belief from the beginning through crazy musical routines and just the insanity of it, all films must contain some believability.Without this believability, people won’t sincerely look at the video and will loose interest in it quickly.By perfecting this balance between the believable and unbelievable, Kurt Kuenne creates a unique and compelling story even if some elements don’t come close to lining up.
This ability to mix the believable and unbelievable is something that if mastered and correctly applied to a film adds a comedic and fun experience that cannot easily be obtained through other means.However, as a post production fanatic, I find it odd that in production or post production the chandeliers in the DMV photo room were not removed or covered up.While it may not bother most people, as a man who loves post production, keeping these elements in the film seems sloppy.However, this isn’t a issue to really get upset about, the film is a masterpiece that I truly enjoyed.